Author Archive: deciminyan

The Adler – Runyan Debate

Cross posted from deciminyan,org

Being an offensive tackle in the NFL is tough.  It’s tough physically, but there’s also a non-physical component of the game that must be mastered.  In today’s game, the multitude of plays are complicated, and you have to memorize a large number of formations and be able to react instantly with a canned set of responses to defensive maneuvers.

In today’s debate between John Adler and Jon Runyan, hosted by conservative talk radio host Michael Smerconish, Mr. Runyan demonstrated why he was a successful NFL player.  He had memorized and successfully parroted all of the Republican talking points that were given to him by his handlers.  The former NFLer even went so far as to regurgitate quotes from Democratic icons John F. Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynahan, as well as from conservative demigod Ronald Reagan.  As he did in his NFL career, Mr. Runyan did his homework and memorized the playbook masterfully.

First-term Congressman John Adler, on the other hand, demonstrated that he is an intelligent politician.  Those who support him would interpret this to say that he has shown that he is an independent thinker who doesn’t always fall in lock step with the party line.  Those of us who are a bit more cynical would say that he is moving to the right in order to capture the conservative voters of Burlington and Ocean counties.  To help establish his conservative creds, Mr. Alder quoted not politicians, but instead referred several times to articles in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.  

Regardless of which view you take, it is clear that Mr. Adler is the more qualified and independent-minded  of the two candidates.  He brags of being a centrist at a time when the nation needs more progressive voices in the House.  His positions on offshore drilling, immigration reform, health care and other issues would perpetuate many of the problems we see today and don’t give us the real change that this country needs.  Yet, a vote for Mr. Runyan would be a vote for the policies of George Bush, Newt Gingrich, and John Boehner, and would continue to benefit the corporatists at the expense of the American middle class.  So this year, for those of us in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District, it’s once again the choice of the lesser of two evils.  A vote for Adler brings the “evils” of a hard-working intelligent centrist.  A vote for Runyan brings the evils of the Tea Party, John Boehner, and Glenn Beck.  The choice is clear.

Christie’s Misplaced Priorities

Cross-posted from deciminyan.org

Waiting until a building is on fire to install a sprinkler system doesn’t make sense.  But that is exactly what Governor Christie and the bumbling State Legislature is doing in their Keystone Kops holiday weekend extravaganza.

Maybe property tax caps make sense, and maybe they don’t.  But right now, we are in a short-term fiscal crisis and diddling with tax caps is, at best, a long-term “solution.”  Instead, our elected officials need to look at bold near-term approaches and stop playing around the edges.

One such bold solution is county-wide consolidation of school districts and municipal services.  If the governor is going to use his bully pulpit to promote necessary but unpopular initiatives, this is where he should concentrate.  Consolidation, along with a BTTW lean/six-sigma approach to state services will drive out costs, improve services, and bring us toward fiscal equilibrium.

Our governor blew it with the veto of the millionaire’s tax.  And he is blowing it with his draconian approach that is driving the quality of life in the state on a downward spiral.  How about it, Mr. Governor?  Can you leverage your divisive approach to benefit all New Jerseyans, not just your cronies?  Or is this too much for even you to tackle?

Is Runyan Qualified to run for Dog Catcher?

Jon Runyan, in his first press conference shows that he is just pandering to the Tea Party.  He rails against taxes, espousing the failed Bush mantra that tax cuts create jobs.  He then says we need to cut spending, without giving any specifics.  Runyan exempts defense spending from his nebulous cuts.  Why?  

Adler is bad enough – with his votes against health care and unemployment insurance.  But he is definitely the lesser of two evils.  We need a real representative.  Too bad we have to wait till 2012.

WTF!

The lead paragraph in today’s NYT article about the Christie budget says there are “major cuts to schools, municipalities, mass transit and other areas – a milestone in his drive to tame what he calls an out-of-control government.”

How the hell did basic services like schools, municipalities, and mass transit become “out of control”?  What is government for, if not to improve our collective lives?

While Christie is the instigator of the destruction of essential state services, the Democrats share the blame for allowing this to happen.  Checks and balances?  Have they become obsolete?

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blog: www.deciminyan.org

The Bully vs. The Wimp

It looks like the 2012 Presidential election may be the tale of the bully vs. the wimp.  While we are all generally happy that Barack Obama is in the White House, we are also disappointed with his reticence to enact a progressive agenda.  In prior posts, the president has been characterized as a moderate Republican and even as Wimp-in-Chief.

Now there’s talk about Chris Christie running for president.  If he can convince the electorate that he balanced the state budget, he will be held in high esteem by some – even though balancing the state budget is totally different than balancing a federal budget.

This would set up the bully vs. wimp battle for the presidency. Unlike many of the other Republican contenders, Christie does not seem to be a lunatic, and if he kowtows to the Tea Party leadership of the GOP, he has a decent chance for the nomination.  So look for the governor to go on a strict diet and start a series of overseas trips to establish his foreign policy creds.  If those happen, it should be an interesting race in 2012, especially here in New Jersey.

John Adler and Israel

(Cross-posted from deciminyan.org)

Last night, I attended a rally meeting at a large synagogue in Voorhees where John Adler spoke and answered questions about Israel and the situation in the Middle East.  The meeting appears to have been sponsored by AIPAC and there were about 100 people in attendance.  While American Jews have as much diversity of viewpoint on Israel’s policies as do the Israelis themselves, this audience was clearly aligned with the right wing, as is the current government in Jerusalem.

Adler gave a short talk followed by questions and answers, although many of the “questions” were more like speeches from the audience.  Adler’s talk started off with a discussion on two meetings he had with President Obama (including one on Air Force One) on our policy toward Israel.  The congressman asserted that he and several of his colleagues impressed upon the president that some of Obama’s early rhetoric was encouraging Israel’s enemies, and that while the United States was putting pressure on the Jewish State to change its policies, no similar pressure was being imposed on other players in the region.  While Adler feels that some progress has been made in moving the president toward a stance that is both pro-Israel and in the best interests of the United States, he called these advancements “baby steps”.  He cited the president’s tempered response to the recent flotilla incident as evidence that the message is getting across.

In response to a question from the audience, Adler agreed with those present that the mainstream press often portrays Israel’s actions in a negative light.  He said that the United States should take some sort of action with regard to some of our allies’ actions to withdraw their ambassadors from Israel, but felt this should be done privately and diplomatically.

Clearly, the audience’s biggest concern was the Iranian nuclear capability.  Adler understands the technical and political difficulties in a military solution, and would like to see more pressure put on Iran through sanctions, diplomatic means, and covert actions.

Adler is staunchly pro-Israel, and he indicated that most other members of Congress are also.  I came away with the impression that Adler’s approach is not a “knee-jerk” one, but that he clearly understands the subtleties and potential traps in approaching the necessary support of Israel with blinders on.  No doubt, Jon Runyan will espouse a similar pro-Israel position.  But the question is whether or not Runyan understands the nuances enough to effectively promote the interests of the United States and of Israel.  Perhaps one day, Runyan will face tough questions at a news conference.  I’m not holding my breath.


A Progressive’s Dilemma

I feel your pain. – Promoted by Rosi Efthim

Cross-Posted from deciminyan.org

Now that the primary is over and the insurgent candidates were beaten back by their respective party’s establishments, what choice does a Progressive Democrat have in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District?

Two years ago, we rejoiced at John Adler’s victory on the coattails of Barack Obama.  Adler is the first Democrat to represent this area in over a century.  His reputation as a “liberal” in the State Senate brought hope that he would pursue an agenda that would be for the people and not the corporate interests.  But it all came crashing down when Adler bucked his party by voting for the insurance companies and denying health insurance coverage for 40 million Americans for another generation.

So now it’s Adler vs. Runyan.  The Harvard-educated lawyer with tons of legislative experience vs. an ex-footballer who shuns public scrutiny.  The Democrat who abandoned the people who got him elected vs. the anti-tax Republican who harbors donkeys on his Moorestown estate to escape taxes.  A Morton’s Fork creating a dilemma for Progressives this fall.

The Case For John Adler

While Adler brags about his middle-of-the-road voting record, we can assume that in a second term, his approach would be better than that of Jon Runyan.  As a Republican, Runyan would vote in lock step with the GOP leadership, just like his potential colleagues have done over the past two years.  Say what you want about Adler, at least he shows some independence.  But the overriding rationale to vote for Adler has nothing to do with votes on particular issues.  The House races this Fall will be very close, and with the current anti-incumbency fervor, the race for control of the House of Representatives is at stake.  It is critical for the Democrats to keep control, with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.  Despite being demonized by the right, Pelosi has been the star of the 111th Congress – building consensus among the diverse views within her party and shepherding Health Insurance Reform through the process while the President stood at the sidelines until the very last minute.  If the Republicans take control of the House, John “Hell No We Can’t” Boehner will be Speaker, second in line for the Presidency, and would make today’s obstructionist Senate pale by comparison.  If the race for Speaker gets down to a single vote, I’d want John Adler to be there representing NJ-3.

The Case Against John Adler

An Adler defeat would send a clear message that there’s not a large gap between his Blue Dog version of being a Democrat and a less-than-extreme Republican such as Runyan.  This would open the door for a real Progressive Democrat to ride Barack Obama’s coattails into the House in the 2012 election.  While he spouts much of the Tea Party rhetoric, Jon Runyan purports to be pro-choice and is not as homophobic as his party’s leadership.  If he can hold his own against their powerful grip, it might be a good thing to have someone like that in the Republic Party.

So as someone who almost always has voted Democratic, I have not yet made up my mind.  Right now, I can’t see myself voting for either candidate and regardless of what happens in the next five months, I can’t ever contemplate a scenario where I would vote for Jon Runyan.  Whether I vote for Adler or sit this one out remains my dilemma.

The Power of Blogs

Wow!

On Saturday, I posted an article complaining that BP is not being held criminally liable for their actions.  Today, Attorney General Holder announced that he is opening up a criminal investigation.

Coincidence?  I think not!

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Override the Veto

Promoted by Rosi Efthim

The following is the text of a letter I sent to my (Republican) State Senator and Assemblypersons.  Feel free to re-use any or all of this.

I am writing to urge you to override the Governor’s veto of the Millionaire’s Tax.

His veto is based on two false premises:

1) Raising taxes on the wealthy will cause them to move out of New Jersey

2) His pledge during the campaign not to raise taxes.

Since this tax was already in existence under the previous administration, one can assume that those wealthy people who felt that their tax rate overrode the benefits of living in New Jersey have already moved out of state.

The pledge made during his campaign has already been broken by his passing down more expenses to the non-wealthy.  For example, the increase in NJ Transit fares is no different to a wage earner than a new tax.

Sometimes, elected officials are called upon to do what’s right instead of what’s politically expedient.  Making the solution to New Jersey’s fiscal woes falls into that category, and retaining the previous tax rates for the wealthiest citizens is essential for the Governor’s “shared sacrifice” to have any meaning.

Support the Troops

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi Efthim

Cross posted at deciminyan

Every day of the year, our uniformed military sacrifices life and limb to fulfill the missions that we assign to them. Yet on only one day per year, Memorial Day, do we formally recognize these sacrifices. We do so with parades, flags, speeches, and barbecues. During the rest of the year, we may send care packages and drive around with magnetic yellow ersatz ribbons on our cars, but for the most part unless we have a loved one serving in the war zones, we go about our business and the soldiers are largely forgotten. Despite the fact that we are in the longest war in American history, news from the front is relegated to the back pages – after the headlines about Dancing with the Stars or the sexual proclivities of a politician.

While we say we “support the troops”, do we really? We send them to an ill-conceived war without adequate body armor. We put them unnecessarily in harm’s way by spending millions of dollars on corrupt or incompetent contractors who provide unsafe facilities that electrocute our servicemen and women. We go through eight years of Bush Reaganomics which wrecks the economy, making service in the military not “voluntary” but rather the “employer of last resort” for some. We stretch our troops so thin that they are cruelly redeployed for three, four, and five tours after they have bravely served our nation. We kick out motivated, well-trained, and well-qualified troops simply because of their sexual orientation.

So how can we support the troops this Memorial Day? Certainly we should continue sending care packages and displaying ribbons on our automobiles, whether or not these activities are symbolic or meaningful. More importantly, we need to realize that the nation is at war, and the justification for that war is subject to debate. If it weren’t for vigorous debate and endless protest, the war in Vietnam might have stretched out several more years, killed more Americans, and had the same outcome. It would be a fitting tribute to our troops if, by next Memorial Day, they were all home and the billions of dollars that we are throwing into overseas wars were spent here in America on deficit reduction, jobs, health care, and education for our veterans and for all Americans.